Living with Wildlife: Mosquitoes

There are more than three thousand species of mosquitoes throughout the world, some of which are present in your backyard. Mosquitoes are adaptable and can live in almost any environment if there is some source of water. Mosquitoes have a slender, segmented body, a single pair of wings, six legs, antennae, and elongated mouthparts. The mosquito life cycle consists of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Mosquitoes need water in order to lay their eggs. The eggs then hatch into larvae that feed on aquatic algae and organic materials in the water. Following hatching, mosquitoes typically live two to four weeks.  

The state health departments in Michigan and Indiana are responding to the largest outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in decades. This serious mosquito-borne disease is affecting humans and livestock in southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana. Some counties this week have begun aerial spraying to kill the mosquito population.

The best sources for information on the spraying in Michigan are here. Pokagon tribal trust lands in Michigan are not in the spray zone. The best source for Information on the spraying in Indiana is here. Pokagon tribal trust lands in Indiana are not in the spray zone.

Adult male mosquitoes lack the mouth parts necessary for biting, so only female mosquitoes use specialized mouthparts for biting. Mosquitoes use exhaled carbon dioxide, body odors, temperature, and movement to find their host to bite. Adult female mosquitoes feed on blood of various hosts. The female mosquito inserts two tubes into the skin, one for injecting an enzyme to inhibit blood clotting and another for sucking the blood out of the host and into their body. In addition to blood, female mosquitoes, as well as males, feed on nectar and other plant sugars.

Mosquitoes are vectors of multiple diseases and cause millions of deaths worldwide every year. Eastern equine encephalitis has recently been identified in southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana and has resulted in several deaths. Other diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes include Zika virus, West Nile virus, malaria, filariasis, yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and others.

The best way to reduce the number of mosquitoes in or near your yard is to remove all water sources or change water sources regularly if you need to have them outside. Mosquito larvae thrive in stagnant water, so removing these types of water sources (old tires, flower pots, buckets, etc.) helps. Mosquito traps can also be set to help reduce the number of females present in the area. Further, biological or chemical treatment may be used if large populations or waterbodies are present. Additionally, you can enhance your yard to attract mosquito predators, such as dragonflies, to help keep mosquito numbers down.

If you go outdoors, it is recommended that you apply a repellent that contains at least ten percent DEET or picaridin and lemon-eucalyptus oil. Further, permethrin treated clothing can help to keep mosquitoes from biting. By having an environment that is not attractive to mosquitoes and taking precautions when outdoors, you are less likely to encounter mosquitoes and have any issues that result from their bites.